Leading People in the Imagination Age

by Janet Sernack

Most of us are aware that the nature of work is changing. According to Singularity University, while emerging technologies may destroy many jobs, they will also create many new appealing ones. Widespread innovation, in the imagination age, will give birth to exciting new industries, all of which are sources of new jobs and occupations. It’s exciting to imagine an intriguing parallel future in which technology has created even more opportunities for the workforce. Where people will maximize the potential of all three of their key modalities; heads, hearts, and hands to fill the interpersonal and creative roles that will be hardest of all to mechanize. Where, according to Deloitte, in the recent article, “The path to prosperity: Why the future of work is human” the boring, repetitive work will be done by robots, leaving the more challenging, creative and interesting work for us humans, making leading people, a key priority.

Welcome to the imagination age

The imagination age is a theoretical period beyond the information age where creativity and imagination will become the primary creators of economic value. Contrasting with the information age where analysis and thinking have been the main activities.

“An imagination economy is defined by some thinkers as an economy where intuitive and creative thinking create economic value after logical and rational thinking has been outsourced to other economies.”

John Hagel, co-chairman of Deloitte’s Centre for the Edge, also believes the future of work relies on drawing out our capabilities that are not context-specific and that create value. And he doesn’t believe these skills are limited to the creative class. “I believe we all, as human beings, have curiosity, creativity, imagination, social intelligence, and emotional intelligence,” he said.

The new logic of competition

In a recent article, by BCG Henderson Institute, The New Logic of Competition they state that “Today’s business leaders are dealing with complex competitive concerns in the short run. But as the 2020s approach, they must also look beyond today’s situation and understand at a more fundamental level what will separate the winners from the losers in the next decade”

Outlining five new imperatives of competition that will come to the forefront for many businesses, one of which is the opportunity for organizations to compete on imagination through imagining and harnessing new ideas.

Putting people at the centre

How can we prepare people, and especially leaders, for the imagination age to solve some of the world’s biggest challenges, creatively and collaboratively, through experimentation and innovation?

At ImagineNation™ we develop people’s head, heart, and hand capabilities, that enhance the multiple intelligences that enable them to make smart decisions and take intelligent action:

  • Head or cognitive intelligence to be more inquisitive, imaginative, curious and creative.
  • Heart or emotional intelligence to be more connected, centred, empathic and compassionate.
  • Hand or visceral intelligence to be more courageous, determined and collaborative.

In the “The path to prosperity: Why the future of work is human”, Deloitte also states that If we set up the right workplaces – with people at the centre – where leading people really matters, Australia (and other nations), can be smarter, happier and more engaged than they are today:

  • Workers can have the skills they need (effectively making them better suited to – smarter – for the jobs of the future) in the imagination age.
  • Better matching between what businesses need and what workers have can make workplaces happier and more efficient.
  • And more flexible workplaces can encourage more people to work – to be more engaged than they are today.

Shifting the leadership paradigm

With these factors in mind, how might they impact future leaders, and how can we prepare leaders to simultaneously and speedily improve and sustain business performance, whilst create meaningful work for people – in ways that are agile, trustworthy and collaborative?

One way might be to focus on developing their head, heart and hand capabilities, by igniting the six C’s of innovation leadership.

These are the foundations for leading in ways that activate people’s ability to be, think, talk and act differently, to survive and thrive in the imagination age. Introducing the six C’s for leading people in the imagination age

  1. Connected: being fully present to self, other, group and the whole system, being transparent and composed, evoking both ‘what is’ and imagining ‘what could be’ possible.
  2. Curiosity: being open-minded, inquisitive, enquiring and listening, to self, other, group, and the whole system, evoking wonder, novelty, and possibilities to sense opportunities.
  3. Compassionate: being open-hearted and empathic to the feelings and suffering of self, other, group, and the whole system, bringing out the very best in people, evoking kindness and gratitude in self and others.
  4. Courageous: being strong, candid, assertive, bold and provocative, to take smart risks and challenge the status quo, disrupt how people habitually and comfortably feel, think and do things, evoking mindset and behaviour shifts that shift the status quo.
  5. Confidence: being self-efficacious, believing in self and other’s ability to effect change, create, invent and innovate, evoking determination, persistence, and resilience to sustain intelligent actions, that deliver the desired results.
  6. Creativity: embodying and enacting all of the C’s of innovation to ideate, invent and innovate, through facilitating generative conversations, that result in smarter, speedier ways of solving problems and making intelligent decisions for the good of the whole.

Imagination will be the most valued skill in our modern society

In The Singularity is Near book, Raymond Kurzweil states that future combination of AI, nanotechnology, and biotechnology will create a world where anything that can be imagined will be possible, raising the importance of imagination as the key mode of human thinking and being.

Making leading people, in the imagination age and economy, a very noble endeavor, where McKinsey states in their article, “Leading in the 21st century”

“If the burden of leadership in the modern age seems overwhelming, the potential benefits are overwhelming too. Large organizations – if led well – can do more for more people than they have at any other moment in history. That is the flip side of all the chaos, complexity, and pressure, and it makes leading through those challenges a noble endeavor”.

Image credit: Pixabay

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Janet Sernack is an ICF ACC accredited executive coach, corporate trainer, group facilitator and culture and change consultant with some of Australia’s and Israel’s top 100 companies. She is the Founder of ImagineNation™ an innovation education company that provides innovation e-learning programs including The Coach for Innovators Certified Program™ experiential learning events including The Start-Up Game™. Follow @JanetSernack


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